9

Is My Phone Smart or Stubborn?

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It was absolutely beautiful at the retreat I went to in July, so I wanted to take some pictures. It was an unusual urge for me. Part of my non-love affair with technology is a healthy ambivalence about photography and videography.

I really didn’t/don’t mind looking at other people’s travel pictures when they were/are actually travel pictures or pictures of people I knew/know. I don’t need to look at more than a couple of pictures of someone I don’t know. Back in the Dark Ages, you had to ask someone to take your picture in front of a scene or object. It seriously limited the number of pictures of the traveler.

You can guess where I’m going with this. I really don’t want our civilization represented in future ages by 253 pictures of baby Doris’ first birthday party and 25 selfies of John getting wasted on his 21st birthday, repeated several million times all over the world.

Anyway, I woke up the phone and, sure enough there was an icon that looked like a camera lens. So I tapped it. Something came up in the viewfinder. Yeah!! Something intuitive. The screen says to center the box on what I want to take a picture of before I snap it. OK.

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There’s a “Next” arrow at the bottom of the screen. Of course I followed it. There were some technical directions about photography that I didn’t understand (I thought this was point and click).  Tap “Next” one more time. More advanced directions that I don’t need. It’s a bunch of trees and a lake.

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This appeared to be the last screen so I tapped on it. (I don’t know why. It seemed to work everywhere else.) Still had the words on the screen. Suddenly I was looking at myself. Remembered something about gently shaking the phone to get it to reverse the screen. Apparently in my frustration, I have shaken the phone sufficiently to reverse the screen. Something clicks. Great. I have a picture of me. Shaking “gently” does not reverse the lens.

I texted my daughter. She said to ignore the words, they would go away after I had taken a few pictures. (?) All I had to do was point and click. So I let it go to sleep and woke it up again. The camera was pointed in the correct direction. I pointed and clicked a couple of times. I found the gallery on my own. (I was impressed.) What do you know? My pictures. My fuzzy pictures (none of my face). Oh yeah. I was supposed to get the subject in the box and let it focus. Oops.

Went back out and tried again. I could see it focusing. This is not the camera for an action shot. I followed its rules. The words went away. The pictures turned out beautifully. I got rid of the icky ones. I’m still not sure why sometimes it would snap when I tapped it with my finger and other times I needed to use my nail.

Verdict: Stubborn

But it does fit into my back pocket better than the old one, and isn’t that what’s important?

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(See – I’m learning already. I much prefer the vertical pictures on the slideshow. But putting them on “paper”, the horizontal pictures look better)

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7

If It’s a Smart Phone, Why Does it Act Stupid?

(1896 Swedish Telephone – Wikimedia)

As you may recall, I was very attached to my “dumb” phone. All I could do on it was text and make phone calls. And all I wanted from a phone was to text and make phone calls. You’ll notice that I am speaking in the past tense. That’s because my carrier said that it was not economical to support that technology anymore.

How dare they? They make so much money, I’m sure they could write off whatever it costs them to support me and the three or four other people who still have that phone.

So a few months ago I got an Android. The more technologically progressive members of the family hate Apple – something about them wanting to control all aspects of our data. I don’t really care. I have hated being on the telephone since I was a teenager.

Yes, I know. Being on the telephone no longer means you have to try to be interested in what happened to Millie’s mother-in-law’s niece’s husband for three hours while you can only move three feet. Or inadvertently picking up a call from that friend you’ve been avoiding for six months since she told you that everyone else thought you were getting fat, but she didn’t.

First thing I did was to enter everyone’s phone number. My SIM card was so old it wouldn’t transfer to the new phone. I opened the contact page. The first line wanted the name. I looked around; there’s no keyboard. Oh. You have to tap on the field to get the keyboard.  Went down to phone number. Had to tap the phone to get the keyboard back up. The phone’s not smart enough to figure out that if I put a name in, I’m probably going to have something else to enter?

I wasn’t available the first time I received a call. I got a notification that I had missed a call and should call xx number. I didn’t know anyone at that number, so I ignored the message. The second time I got the message, I asked my son why I kept getting calls from that number. He didn’t even roll his eyes when he explained to me that it was the number for voice mail, not the number that was calling. So I have to pay to retrieve my messages? Yes, that’s the way everyone does it now.

I’m beginning to see why they wanted me to change phones.

I heard my phone ringing. There’s a sort of target-looking thing in the center of the screen. I supposed I needed to press that. Nothing. There’s a red phone at the bottom of the screen; I pressed that. Nothing. The call went to voice mail. Of course.

At dinner, my husband and son explained that I need to swipe from the target thingy to the right to answer the phone. If I swipe to the left, I disconnect them. The red phone at the bottom is to hang up. If I have a red phone to disconnect, why would I need to swipe left? Just because.

I left my husband a text, and didn’t hear back from him. He said he didn’t get it. I tried a few more times over the next few days with no luck. He said that maybe the software wasn’t working right in my phone, so at dinner he tried sending me a text. Hummmm. The text arrived. I responded, and it went to his cell phone. I tried to text him. Nothing.

Finally, he looked at my phone. He told me that I was texting to his work phone. How did that happen? I had gone to his icon and sent the text. The first number assigned to him is his cell phone; why would it send it to the work phone?

That’s not how you’re supposed to send texts. You’re supposed to go to Contacts and tap on the message icon for the correct number. It’s not smart enough to just use the first number?

You call people the same way. Go to Contacts and choose the phone symbol by the correct number. This is not making my life easier. I may go back to memorizing people’s numbers.

I asked my daughter how to send a text to two people at a time. I was out of town relaxing at a retreat and had wanted to let her and my husband both know I had arrived safely. She told me there was an icon near where I typed the message. I still can’t find it.

 

(Next I try the camera)

 

0

Peace in Our Time**

**A reference to World War One. Remember: I told you that one of the hazards of reading this blog was the possibility of learning something.

I wanted to remind you that this year is the 100th anniversary of the start of WWI. (Yes, we count the part before the U.S. entered.) Those of you with school-age children may want to be prepared for macaroni U-boats. I can also see a debate on the futility of trench warfare vs congressional debate. Maybe Congress could debate the futility of trench warfare. Would they see the irony?

Back to reality.This this post could have been subtitled “Technology Strikes Back Part, Part 2: Going Global.” Last week we lost all electronic connectivity.

That’s right. No Internet. No TV. No land-based telephone. If we wanted news, we had to read it. Which would have been a lot easier if the Internet had not caused the papers to either shut down or only print a few days a week.

As you may recall, I am not a huge user/lover of technology. When my husband came upstairs on Friday to tell me that Comcast was out, I don’t think I showed the proper level of distress. That really shouldn’t have come as too much of a surprise. I’m the only one in the family who could have been home from work for three hours without noticing it.

My reaction was more along the lines of a sigh of relief. No Judge Judy (a family member’s secret addiction). No shouts of triumph at 2a because someone’s team had finally breached the wall and was attacking their arch-nemesis. No pieces of candy, marbles, flying pigs or whatever mesmerizing for hours. No more hour-by-hour updates of someone’s family (not mine) reunion.

Best of all, no solicitation calls at dinner-time. Admittedly we eat early (about 4p), but the timing is amazing. I’m told that non-profits were not impacted by the No Call rule. There seems to be some sort of team-tag going on. I will just get rid of one, when another one finds our number. Considering that it usually takes 3-4 repetitions of “I’ve told you not to call x times” before it gets through, I’m thinking that maybe my own pre-recorded response is the answer.

I probably could have been a little more sympathetic. My husband does use home email for work since the email at work is down for upgrade. I figure if they can use the excuse that their email server is down, so can he. He’s worried about a breakdown in communication. As if anything has been able to fix that problem since the beginning of time.

My son’s friends took pity on him and invited him to the modern equivalent of socializing: sitting in the same room and each person facing a screen instead of the other people. I had heard about it, but the first time it happened in our house it was a little unnerving. Back in the dark ages, if two or more people were in the same room and not talking they were either fighting or bored. Unless it was mixed male and female.

My daughter turned to cleaning her room. It was wonderful. She’s been promising to do it for some time. She’s going away to college in the fall. It’s going to be really nice to be able to leave the door open and not worry about losing the cats.

In a way, the timing was a little unfortunate. Edgar (my computer) and I had finally come to a meeting of the minds (so to speak). I realized what a sensitive personality he really is. And he realized that I could permanently disconnect his power source. We can generally get through an entire session without angst. It probably helps that my son taught me how to move around the screen rather than having the screen move around on me.

Nevertheless, I probably suffered disproportionately little. Even one of the cats was put out. She spends a lot of time with my husband while’s he’s on the computer. In his lap, not the keyboard (she’s a little non-technical too). No computer, no sitting, no warm-blooded furniture.

I guess we’ve all become creatures of the 21st century.

Update: It is now Wednesday afternoon (5.5 days later) and the connectivity has finally been restored (they did something in the backyard.) Maybe Comcast is right – their customer service couldn’t possibly be any worse after a merger with TimeWarner.

6

Do I Know You?

I decided to get back on Facebook. This is my third attempt. The first time a few years ago resulted in a serious addiction to Farmville and its various relatives. I was away for eight months and came back “clean”. I lasted a couple of months and got bored. So I went away again. I started feeling  bad about asking people to read the blog without showing any interest in what they were doing. I thought it might help if I went back and started reading their posts.

It wasn’t difficult getting back it. I’d been getting emails every day (it seemed) that I had “notifications” waiting. The notifications usually seemed to be someone inviting me to a game I had never heard of.  After going cold turkey a couple of years ago, I’m afraid to even look at another game. What if I fall prey to a dancing cookie or something?

The other type of notification was someone asking me to “like” some obscure page. While I have no issue with the “Don’t Bludgeon Baby Animals” type, I have no appetite for the “Like Dr. Smith. He Has the Answer to All of Life’s Questions.” From what I can tell, if I like something it goes up on my wall for everyone to see. It also goes on that crawl on the right side of the screen, although things pass through there fairly quickly. What if the world knows that Dr. Smith has just been arrested for fraud? Will my “friends” still “like” me? Will they respect me in the morning?

About those “friends”. I forget how I originally started, but a lot of my first friends were people I had known in high school. The last time I was back, my daughter taught me how to “un-follow” people without “un-friending” them. It worked really well. When I came back there were only a couple of people in the feed who I really didn’t know. One of them, I have no idea whatsoever who she is or where she came from.

The last time I was on, I got a feed question from someone thinking it would be interesting to find out where she met her “friends”. Oddly enough, I had been trying to figure out who she was for a couple of weeks. I responded with that answer. I don’t think we’re friends anymore. (Am I missing the point of Facebook in only connecting with people I actually recognize?)

Now that I have winnowed my feed to the people I actually know, I have discovered that the vast majority of my feed is from the same few people. Some of them have lives that are interesting enough to fill the space. A few search the web for pictures and quotations they like. A few seem to use it as a way to share every thought they have.

I don’t have a problem with any of that. I just don’t know how to join. My life is not that interesting, and I really don’t have any fun pictures to share. Does anyone really care that I almost ran over a bunny yesterday morning (not really)? Or that the cats have caught three mice in the last week (really)? Things that would be a throwaway in person seem to have an increased sense of importance when you write it down.

Worse yet, I really don’t get the “liking” idea (I have the same problem on WordPress). I haven’t fully accepted the concept that people have no idea whether or not I have read what they have written. “Liking” is not required to avoid hurting their feelings. Conversely, I guess I could write whatever I want since very few of my “friends” would see it anyway.

When you “like” someone’s post, do you actually have to like it? Is it like nodding your head to indicate that you are paying attention to what the person is saying? Or is it full buy-in for whatever they are talking about?

If someone “likes” my comment does it mean that they agree with me? Or do they just like the way I said it?

How many cute pictures of their families do people really think everyone wants to look at? On a daily basis? Do people ever think about their audience?

If someone sends me a link that doesn’t work, do I tell them? One guy sent me a link to like his company. When I followed the link it took me to a page for something else with a pop-up to go to the page to like his company. I didn’t like the company that much and left.

I didn’t give them much personal history to use for advertising. My location matches the information I gave them for high school and college. So I’m not really getting personalized ads companies want. I’m just getting a lot of them scattered all over the place. My friends and likes are pretty esoteric too. I am not a marketers dream. I’m guessing that the longer I’m on, the more the ads will standardize. I can hardly wait.

The one thing I do like about Facebook is the chatting. It’s great to be able to actually “talk” to people I never get to see. However, being on at 3a seems to have cut down on the number of people I can find to chat with. I need to get some friends overseas.

So I’m friends with people I don’t know and like things that are merely statements of fact. No wonder they call it virtual reality.

 

7

Technology Strikes Back

Miss me? Talk to Edgar.

Edgar is my new Toshiba laptop (with Windows 8.1). Yes, I finally have one. And my dreams of being able to finish my email and work on my blog on the same day are, at this point, still dreams.

The issue was that my weird work schedule leads to a weird sleep schedule. I have to get up at 2:30a to be at work by 4a. Due to some unfortunate genetic material, I have always needed 8-9 hours of sleep/day. Except when I’m manic, but that has its own problems.

The only time I tried to stay up all night at college to finish a paper was a bit of disaster. I’m sure the paper was horrible. At least I did it on a typewriter so I was saved the embarrassment of rereading it. But the notes I took in Constitutional Law were worthless – I’d write a few words then put a citation number. Never finished a single thought.

Anyway – if you calculate backwards from 2:30a, you get to 6:30p. I’m sure there are some people who are more disciplined than I am (probably 90% of the world). But I am totally incapable of going to bed at 6:30p and staying in bed until 2:30a. For one thing, I’d miss ‘Bones’.

So my solution (all you scientific types who understand circadian rhythms should probably skip this paragraph) has been 2 naps that last 2-3 hours plus ‘bed’ which is 3-3.5 hours). So I sleep at 1p, 4:30p, and 11p. It actually works pretty well. Except for sharing the PC. Since I’m sleeping while he’s at work, we need to share. Which wasn’t really a problem when I was only using it for news and emails.

Finally my husband got tired of me complaining, and here we are. As everyone else in the world knows, the first thing you need to do is name it. I’m sure there is a logical reason for that, but I haven’t run across it yet. (Don’t tell me – I want to be surprised.)

They recommend something like ‘Cat’s Computer’. I did that with my Kindle. I cringe every time I download a book. I mean, seriously, for someone who has my vocabulary is that not the lamest excuse for a name?

So when my husband asked me what named I wanted to use (you don’t seriously think I set it up by myself do you?), I didn’t hesitate. I gave him the first name that came to mind: Edgar. As in Edgar Allan Poe. Not quite as weird as you may have thought.

Thought Break –

I was going to finish this post with a litany of various strange experiences Edgar and I have been having as a couple, but now I will just tell you what happened as I tried to write this.

I went to the Reader and chose New Post. Then Text. It’s my favorite format for typing. So I’m typing and things are going along fine. I got down to the paragraph that starts, “So when my husband…”, and I touched the wrong thing or got too close to the wrong thing or thought the wrong thing and it ate everything back to “Don’t tell me…”

I could hear it laughing. I have never met a piece of hardware that was this touchy. It took me a day to get used to the touchpad, but I’m still learning why the time keeps popping up. And why sometimes the down arrow moves the screen. And why sometimes the ‘mouse button’ and the side arrow move the screen. And why sometimes nothing at all will move the screen.

And most annoyingly, sometimes it will react when I get close to a key and sometimes I can double-click twice and not get a response.

So I thought I would show it who’s boss. I would type in Word and transfer it into WordPress. That way, I wouldn’t lose anything.

Anything except Word that is. I couldn’t find it in any of the usual places – Control Panel, system files, HELP!!! Luckily my teenage son walked in at the moment and immediately found it under Apps (of course). I knew there was a good reason for kids.

So here I am in Word 2013, discovering that – surprise! – Edgar is here too. Moving text without my permission, deleting things.

There is much, much more to tell you at a later date, but I’m going to post this now before the whole thing disappears. Assuming I can get it over to WordPress.

I hadn’t thought about it before – I wonder if the problems are related to naming it after Edgar Allan Poe?

10

The Last Shopping App You’ll Ever Want

The store keeps coming up with more and more ways to “help” people get more information about the products they are most likely to buy. I imagine the end will come with something like this:

A woman is looking through an online ad for a store where she shops. She notices an app for her cell phone. It’s called ISIS (Individual Shopping Information System). It identifies the store you where you are shopping by GPS. It then directs you to the items you have included on your shopping list. No more wandering up and down aisles in a strange store. She immediately downloads the app.

The woman decides to shop on the way home from work. The night before she turns on ISIS to enter her list.

“Hello. I am ISIS, your personal shopping assistant. I am voice activated. What is your name?”

“Susan.”

“Hello Susan. Please enter your shopping list.”

“Apples, …”

“Apples, applesauce, apple juice, apple pie, apple butter?”

“Just apples”

“I do not understand ‘just apples'”

“Apples, bread, carrots, cereal, cheese, milk, yogurt”

“You are speaking too quickly. Perhaps you would prefer to use the keypad, Susan.”

Susan agrees that it would be a good idea. She quickly types in the list.

The next afternoon, Susan arrives at the store and accesses ISIS.

“Good Afternoon, Susan. Are you ready to shop?”

“Yes I am, ISIS.”

“Should I list this as one of your favorite stores? I am able to track sales and specials at your favorite stores.”

“Yes”

“Please see my screen for all of the specials the store is offering today.”

Susan looks at the screen and scrolls through several pages.

“Would you like to add any of these items to your shopping list?”

“No”

“I noticed that you have three dairy items on your list. Would you like to add the ice cream that is on sale?”

“No”

“Would you like to add bananas for your cereal. They are only 43 cents per pound.”

Susan is looking for the command menu. Finally, “Go to list, ISIS.”

“First item, apples. Go straight.”

Susan starts to walk and sees some flowers to her left. She starts to walk toward them.

“Go straight.”

Susan stops to looks at the flowers. “GO STRAIGHT SUSAN.”

Susan looks for a way to turn off the app with no luck.

“Good-bye ISIS.”

“We are not finished. Go straight.”

Susan goes to the apples and puts them in her cart. She scans the code into ISIS.

“Bread. Turn left. Walk 10 feet. The bread is on the left.”

Susan picks up some bread and scans it.

“That is not the sale bread.” ISIS refuses the code.

Susan picks up a different loaf and scans it.

“That bread is not good for you. It contains too much sugar.”

Susan scans the bread ISIS wants and puts what she wants in the cart.

They continue through the store, finally ending up in dairy at the yogurt. Susan picks up several containers and scans them.

“Do you want apple yogurt? You like apples.”

“No, ISIS.”

“We are finished. Proceed to your right to check out.”

Susan puts her things on the belt. ISIS speaks:

“Press the enter button to verify that you have purchased all of your items.”

Susan presses the button. A loud buzzing comes from her phone.

“Susan, you have bought something that is not on your list. Did you intend to buy {personal hygiene product}?”

“Yes, ISIS.”

“Did you intend to buy that unhealthy bread?”

“Yes, ISIS.”

“Everything is verified. You may pay.”

Susan pays the total and takes her groceries to the car. She tried to close the ISIS app.

“Error. Process cannot be completed.”

“Susan. I don’t want to leave. I think we can be friends.”

 

10

Don’t You Trust Me?

Yesterday at work, a coworker told me that the company had put a new security camera in the deli area. It points at a wall with ready-to-bake pizzas, packaged meats, and ready-to-eat sandwiches (those ones in the triangular boxes that are available in vending machines). It appears to be stationary, but I’m no expert on these things.

Some people think they are directed more at the employees than the customers. I guess employee theft is a problem. But I would hope that someone would risk their job over something better than a week-old egg-salad sandwich on white bread being kept non-lethal by cellophane. I mean, it’s only a few feet from the real meat.

They also have a camera to watch us leave the building. I’m told that one’s a pin-hole camera, so we won’t know we’re being watched. Apparently the people responsible for the camera didn’t realize that telling a couple of people about it meant that all employees would know. And those employees would tell the new employees.

I’m not really sure what they hope to see. Maybe if a big-screen TV goes missing, they check the recording to see if anyone tried to sneak one through the employee door. They would probably want to get rid of that employee anyway. We’re allowed to use any of the doors in the store. It would be pretty stupid to use the one door where even if the camera didn’t get you, everyone else saw you leave with a new TV. A TV you could never afford on the wages you make.

I lead a seriously boring life. I’m a little embarrassed to know that I’m being watched almost everywhere I go. There’s a traffic camera down the road from our house. We live on a “major” two-lane road (it’s paved). The light is at the intersection with another paved two-lane road. It’s a pretty exciting spot. There’s a nursing home on one corner. That’s it. I really don’t know if they’ve caught anyone with it. For all I know, it may not even be connected.

I’m not sure which is creepier: knowing that you’re being watched and not being able to tell how they’re doing it or those cameras that have a screen where you can watch yourself move around a store. The logical part of me knows that there is no one actually watching all of those monitors all the time. But there’s still a part of me that says, “Geez, I don’t remember my butt looking that big the last time I wore these pants. I don’t want people looking at me like this.”

On the other hand, it’s probably not as easy to be a “fashion don’t” as I fear. It seems like every time there is a robbery at a gas station or convenience store, the images are too blurry to make out anything about the person they’re looking for. Apparently if I want to steal a $4 pseudo-sandwich, I should do it at the local Gas Mart.

I’ve been seeing and hearing ads for home security systems that allow you to view what is going on at home from work (or wherever you are with your laptop). Part of me thinks that’s a great idea. You can make sure the house is still in one piece, the kids are still in one piece, and your spouse hasn’t made a playdate with a new friend. On the other hand, do I really want to know that the kids have tie-dyed the rabbit before I have to?

On a local morning show last week, I heard about a guy who put cameras in his bedroom. He was missing some clothes and was sure his roommate was stealing from him. Turns out he had left the clothes at his new girlfriend’s house. Hope he takes down the cameras before he takes the new girlfriend home. Or that she’s open-minded.

I hate the thought of being watched. I guess it’s the modern version of the days when the clerk would come into the store changing rooms to “make sure everything is OK” in an effort to keep people from stealing. But that was creepy too.

Maybe I’ll just go full-cat. They don’t care one way or the other what we think of them.